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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Forum Welcomes Khasbulatov Back Into Fray

Former parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov made his first public appearance in Moscow on Friday since being jailed last October, attending a forum sponsored by a newspaper known for its anti-Semitic content. A pale but smiling Khasbulatov, sporting a black-and-white Palestinian scarf, was greeted warmly by a crowd of Russian extremists and Palestinian activists commemorating the second anniversary of the newspaper Al-Kods. Khasbulatov was President Boris Yeltsin's archrival in a bitter power struggle that culminated in at least 140 deaths last October. But on Friday he gave no sign that he would return to politics and only hinted at the fight he lost. "The problem of Palestine, the fight of the Arab people for its freedom, is of course well known to us all," Khasbulatov said in a soft voice after receiving three standing ovations and numerous flowers and kisses from admirers. "We never imagined that similar conflicts would appear in the Soviet Union and in Russia itself." "I was and I am a proponent of peaceful dialogue," said Khasbulatov, whose last public words in Moscow on Oct. 3 exhorted his supporters to take the Kremlin. "I wish our friends from Palestine and the newspaper success," he added before finishing his brief speech. Shortly after, Khasbulatov left the meeting in a beige Volga sedan. The celebration at the House of Tourists in Moscow's far southwest reaches was delayed for 90 minutes because of a bomb threat one organizer said was a "Jewish joke." After searching the building with specially trained dogs, police allowed the crowd of 1,000 to enter. Unlike his October ally, former Vice President Alexander Rutskoi, Khasbulatov has kept a low profile in the capital following his release from prison in February under an amnesty by Russia's new parliament. Khasbulatov, a native of Chechnya, left Moscow almost immediately for the breakaway Caucasus republic, where he was given a hero's welcome. He is reportedly considering running for a seat in the Russian parliament, if Chechnya, which boycotted last December's elections, decides to hold a vote for its seats. Khasbulatov on Friday declined to say why he had picked this event, organized by the Palestinian financier of Al-Kods, to return to the public eye. In its latest issue, the weekly printed a half-page advertisement for Khasbulatov's book on the October uprising, called "Russia's Greatest Tragedy." The paper said Khasbulatov had given it exclusive rights to the publication and distribution of the book, which has been translated into five languages, including Arabic. Al-Kods has always been eager to give itself credence by supporting various Russian opposition leaders. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov and Rutskoi had been invited but did not attend. A young staff member of the paper, who identified himself only as Vladimir, said the publication was supported by Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization. But Salekh Moisa, a diplomat at the Palestinian Embassy in Moscow, said Al-Kods "does not reflect the interests of the PLO." According to Moisa, the newspaper is published only outside the West Bank and Gaza Strip and is distributed most widely in the United States and Russia. Al-Kods' Palestinian publisher and financial backer, Shaaban Khafez Shaaban, said in an interview in the latest issue of the paper that the paper's main aim is "to explain what Israel is like, what awaits immigrants from Russia." Shaaban also accused "Zionists" of convincing former U.S. President Henry Truman to order the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan in World War II, and of helping Hitler attack Jews to push them to emigrate to Israel. Roman Spekter, head of the Association of Jewish Communities in Moscow, said in a telephone interview that a number of Jewish organizations had appealed to the Russian Public Prosecutor's office to have Al-Kods prosecuted for inciting ethnic hatred, which is banned under Russia's press law. "We are very worried about it," said Spekter. "That paper is clearly anti-Semitic." Russian newspapers have reported the government is planning to launch a suit against Al-Kods, but officials at the president's Committee on the Press could not be reached for comment.